SG’s Reforms: Lighter School Burden, Work Permit Points System

Singapore has attracted a large number of elite talents and international students with its excellent business environment and education level. This year, Singapore is launching a reform programme in all aspects of education, employment, visa and family!
In the end, what are the major adjustments for international studentwho want to go to Singapore, stay in Singapore to get a work visa or what is the impact of the family?
01 Singapore’s major education reform: related to primary and secondary schools to the University of a number of academic levels
Singapore’s Minister of Education, Mr Tan Chun Seng, revealed in the Parliamentary Appropriations Committee’s debate on the Ministry of Education’s expenditure budget, the new education reforms in the next few years, from primary and secondary schools to universities and polytechnics, all types of students will be affected.
1. Reforms to A-Levels and university marking scheme to encourage students to be creativeA list of the key points of the 5 adjustments to the A level system:

From 2024, thematic assignments will be graded as “pass/pass” subjects.

Starting from 2024, English Comprehension and Writing (GP) will become a compulsory subject and can no longer be replaced by Knowledge Inquiry (KI).

Starting from 2024, the mid-year examinations of Junior Colleges and Lei Yan High School will be phased out.

 From 2026 onwards, the fourth content subject will be counted towards the university entrance score only if it improves the candidate’s overall performance

 From 2026, the maximum university entrance score will be changed from the existing 90 to 70 points

Detailed Express:

From 2024 onwards, A Level Project Work will only be graded as pass/fail and will not be counted for university entrance points. Students will be able to apply for university with only a pass.

This will allow the burden of scoring to be reduced and will encourage students to be creative in their areas of interest and not be tied down by grades.

Comprehension and Writing will become compulsory from 2024. Currently, students can choose between Comprehension and Writing or Knowledge Exploration. When the curriculum is updated, Knowledge Exploration will be a ‘comparative subject’ and will not replace Comprehension and Writing.

The Ministry of Education will phase out the mid-year exams at Junior College and Reed High School starting with the 2024 intake.

With the elimination of the mid-year exam, Junior College and Reed High School will not be able to replace the mid-year exam with a scored test. Individual subjects cannot have more than one marking test per term.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) hopes that this adjustment will reduce the over-emphasis on examinations and academic performance. Instead of having to prepare for exams, students will be able to save time to engage in deeper and more varied learning experiences.

The 90 points for the Singapore University Entrance Score (SUES) will be changed to 70 points, the Topic Assignment and Fourth Knowledge Subject grades will no longer be mandatory, and the Comprehension and Writing subject, which fosters critical thinking, will become mandatory.

Such reforms are designed to prevent students from focusing too much on their grades and to further enhance more of their skills.

Students in Junior Colleges and Reed High School are currently required to take a minimum of four knowledge-based subjects, including at least three subjects at major (H2) level and one subject at minor (H1) level.

From 2026, a student’s fourth knowledge-based subject will only count for points if it improves the candidate’s university entrance score. This means that only three of the four intellectual subjects at H2 level will count towards the university entrance mark.

This means that students can choose the fourth subject according to their interests and do not have to be overly concerned about exam results.

2. No more streaming in secondary schools, full implementation of subject panning

From 2024, over 80 per cent of Singapore’s secondary schools will no longer be streamed, and over 80 per cent of them will be subject-integrated, allowing students to study subjects at their own level according to their ability. 120 secondary schools will benefit from this. (Schools offering through-train programs and special schools will not implement full subject grouping.)

Students will still choose schools on the basis of their results in the Primary 6 Certificate of Education Examination (P6CE), but there will be no more “streaming”. Students will be able to decide the level of their subjects according to their ability. (G1, G2 and G3)

G1 – Basic level, equivalent to the difficulty of the “Craft Class” programme.

G2 – Standard level, which is equivalent to the difficulty of the “General Class”.

G3 – Advanced level, which is equivalent to the difficulty of an “Express” course.

Many are calling this “Singapore’s Education Reform”! And they are happy to see it.

Under the subject grouping system, students will be placed in mixed-level classes with students from different allocation groups, taking subjects at the appropriate level according to their ability. This provides students with more opportunities to interact with and learn from peers of different backgrounds, strengths and interests.

Unlike the streaming system, the secondary school allocation groups are only used to help facilitate enrolment and to determine a student’s initial level of attainment in most subjects at the start of S1.

Under the new system, students will have more flexibility to tailor their studies to their strengths, interests and learning needs. They will also have the opportunity to take subjects at a deeper or lighter level.

According to the Ministry of Education, from 2026 onwards, this flexibility to customize will also be extended to elective subjects in the upper years of secondary school.

In addition, from 2027, secondary school leavers will be awarded the same Singapore Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate (SEC), which will replace the O-Levels and N-Levels HKCEE certificates.

3. More students will be able to enrol in Polytechnic Foundation Programme, increasing the number to 2,600 annually

Starting from the 2028 academic year, more secondary school students in Singapore will be able to enrol in the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP), with the number of beneficiaries increasing to 2,600 per year from the current average of 1,700.

Introduced in 2013, the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP) allows students from the General Academic Stream with good performance to be exempted from the O-Levels Certificate of Education Examination (O-Levels), and with their N-Levels results, they can go directly to the Polytechnic to take one year’s foundation course, and then pursue a Professional Diploma programme.

With the full implementation of the subject grouping system next year, the Polytechnic Foundation Programme will also expand its student intake. Students who have taken G2 and G3 subjects, or those who have mainly taken G3 subjects may enrol in the PFP if their results meet the requirements. G3 subjects are the most advanced subjects and are equivalent to the Express Stream level.

With the abolition of the streaming system, secondary school students will be able to take subjects at their own level according to their strengths and pace. The Ministry of Education (MOE) will adjust the admission criteria for post-secondary institutions to provide more options for students to pursue further studies without being restricted by the source stream.

4. Promote deeper co-operation between mainstream and special schools to facilitate mutual learning and exchanges between students of different abilities

In the coming years, the Ministry of Education will promote more and deeper collaboration between mainstream and special education schools to facilitate exchanges among students of different abilities.

The new co-operation model replaces the “satellite partner” model introduced in 2007. Apart from enhancing student interaction, the new model also focuses on learning and improving teaching methods through professional exchanges among teachers.

At present, 19 local special schools collaborate with 22 mainstream schools to provide more opportunities for students to interact with each other through co-organizing activities such as curriculum support activities, breaks, workshops and learning camps.

In addition, the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Community Connections Programme of the Ministry of Social and Family Development, will implement the Elevate Community Network in all 24 municipalities, which is expected to benefit 1,300 students in 110 schools this year.

The Elevate Community Network aims to help students from disadvantaged families improve their school attendance and provide more comprehensive assistance to students and their families.

5. Promote lifelong learning and increase the enrolment rate in the new public universities to 60 per cent

By 2025, the rate of students attending public universities in the same cohort will increase to 60 per cent, with an overall increase of 2,300 university places, mostly for adult learners.

The cohort lifelong participation rate is the percentage of cohort students attending public universities. Currently, about 42 per cent are pre-employment students attending universities, while about 8 per cent are adult learners pursuing further studies after entering the workforce.

The Singapore Government’s target is to increase the participation rate from 8 per cent to 15 per cent for adult learners and from 42 per cent to 45 per cent for the general student population.

According to the Minister for Education, the increase in university enrolment will give more Singaporeans the opportunity to pursue university programs and take into account the medium-term manpower needs of Singapore’s economic transformation.

Through the above series of education reforms in Singapore, it is not difficult to find that Singapore’s education is constantly being optimized and is becoming more and more humane, not only focusing on students’ performance, but also paying more attention to students’ skills development and long-term development.

02 Employment Pass applications to be added to the points system from September this year 

Major Changes to Singapore Pass: Addition of Assessment Framework, Insurance, QuotaFrom 1 September 2023, the EP Pass approval criteria will be made more transparent (apart from meeting salary requirements) with the introduction of the Complementary Professional Assessment Framework (COMPASS).

The Minister for Manpower, Mr Tan Sze Lon, has announced the introduction of the Complementary Professional Assessment Framework (COMPASS). The framework will be used to assess whether the competence of the applicant meets the needs of the local labour market, and will be used to determine whether or not to approve an application for a permit.

The assessment criteria has a passing mark of 40 points and is divided into two parts: the basic assessment criteria and the award criteria.

This framework is mainly used to assess whether the applicant’s ability meets the needs of the local labour market, and to determine whether the application for a permit is approved.

The basic assessment is divided into 4 assessment items, including:

① C1 Compare the monthly salary of the applicant with that of local white-collar employees in the same industry

20 points if the applicant’s monthly salary reaches or exceeds the level of 90% of his/her peers in the same industry; 10 points if the salary is between 65% and 90%; and 0 points if the salary is below 65%.

C2 Applicant’s Education

20 points if the applicant graduated from a top school; 10 points if equivalent to a university degree; 0 points if no university degree.

③ C3 Ratio of applicant’s nationality to white-collar employees of other nationalities in the company

Applicant’s nationality accounts for 5% or less of the company’s total employees, 20 points; 5%-25%, 10 points; more than or exactly 25%, 0 points.

④ C4 Compare the ratio of local to foreign employees in the company and its peers

For the applicant’s company, more than or just under 50% local employees, 20 points; 20%-50%, 10 points; less than 20%, 0 points.

Compared to their peers, applicants not only need to have a high monthly salary and a high level of education, but also need to fulfil one of the following two criteria: Scarce nationality amongst expatriate workers in Singapore or belonging to a company that employs more locals.However, there are 2 things that can be done to make up for the above shortcomings. The Complementary Expertise Framework (CEF) has a special incentive component with 2 assessment items:

Meaning: 20 bonus points if you work in a job that is on Singapore’s list of scarce occupations, and 10 bonus points if the company you work for meets specific assessment criteria for innovation or internationalization.
This move by Singapore is aimed at attracting better quality and elite talent from around the globe. Apart from that,
The Singapore government will further narrow the wage gap across industries.According to the report, the government believes that “there are talented people in all walks of life, regardless of industry”. It is not just a job in an office building that makes you look good. Every job has its own value, and the Government will take more measures to reduce the wage gap between trades, so that every job can be paid decently and in line with its value.

For the unemployed, the Government also proposes to help them better plan their career and provide assistance and re-employment counselling to the unemployed by, among other things, bearing the costs of education. Job-seekers belonging to the lower-middle-income grassroots will also receive appropriate assistance.

Social Dimension: More Support for Singaporean Families

Singapore is a society that values the unity of the family, and the Singapore Government believes that the family is the cornerstone of society.

The Government will provide greater support to all families at all stages, whether they are young couples becoming parents, the “sandwich class”, or families with disabled members. The Singapore Government is committed to ensuring the continued provision of affordable public housing for all, building more baby-sitting centres, increasing paid parental leave, supporting young parents to stay in the workforce, and providing more assistance to families in need of specialised care, among others.

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